Jefferson County Sheriff's Deputy has criminal record wiped clean

Jefferson County Sheriff's Deputy has criminal record wiped clean

A Jefferson County Sheriff’s Deputy once indicted for tampering with physical evidence and tampering with a governmental record has been granted an expunction of his criminal record, according to a decision handed down by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

Tim Smith, now known by “EXPUNCTION, EXPUNCTION EXPUNCTION” in the high court of appeals, was faced with two felony charges connected to his involvement in the arrest and warrant service of detainee Stephen Hartman, who was involved in a courtroom disturbance with then-Judge of the 252nd District Court Layne Walker in 2013 while attempting to serve court papers. Also indicted were fellow Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office (JCSO) employees Steven Broussard and John Chad Kolander.

Criminal District Court Judge John Stevens appointed District Attorney Pro Tem Josh Schaffer to review, and if necessary, present and prosecute allegations of official misconduct and present the allegations to the grand jury for potential prosecution if needed beginning in 2015 pertaining to the 2013 incident. After expanding the scope of his investigation to include all three sheriff’s deputies as well as the former judge, Schaffer was ready for grand jury presentation by May 2016.

May 11, 2016, the grand jury returned indictments against Smith alleging that, on or about June 5, 2013, he, “knowing that an investigation was in progress,” made, presented and used a probable cause affidavit “with knowledge of its falsity and with intent to affect the course and outcome of the investigation” to convince then-Judge Bob Wortham to grant a search warrant for evidence already in the possession of the sheriff’s employees.

But the truth of those allegations would never be debated before a court. Pre-trial motions in August 2016 nixed prosecution before it ever began. In arguments to quash indictments presented by attorneys for the JCSO defendants, the accused claimed they were not given enough information about their alleged crime for the indictments to stand.

After hearing arguments concerning the motions to quash, the trial court granted all the deputies’ motions to quash indictments and gave the state an opportunity to amend the indictments to “make a specific allegation of what the state will rely upon to convict.” Rather than moving to amend the indictments, the state filed notices of appeal. In each case, the state filed a motion requesting that the trial court issue “findings of fact and conclusions of law,” but the trial court denied the state’s requests.

The Ninth Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s order quashing the indictments in an unpublished opinion issued Feb. 22, 2017. The state did not move for rehearing but did appeal to a higher appeals court.

Schaffer argued to the Court of Criminal Appeals, the highest criminal appeals court in the state, that given the chance to voice the case before the court, the state could make a valid argument for reinstating the indictments against the peace officers. “The indictments provide adequate notice of the alleged criminal conduct because they track the statutory language of the applicable offenses,” Schaffer wrote to the court. “The state is not required to allege what about the affidavit was false because those facts are evidentiary. Additionally, Smith knows from the state’s response to his motion to quash that his omission of material information rendered the affidavit false.

“The arguments presented by the parties at the pretrial hearing demonstrate that Smith knows the state’s theory of falsity. However, the court of appeals held that, in prosecutions for tampering with governmental records and physical evidence, the state must plead not only the statutory elements of the offenses but also the evidentiary facts that make the governmental records and physical evidence false.”

The Court of Criminal Appeals declined to hear Schaffer’s oral argument, and ultimately upheld the lower courts’ decisions.

After Smith’s indictments were dismissed, he was returned to service at the JCSO.